16 God addressed Samuel: “So, how long are you going to mope over Saul? You know I’ve rejected him as king over Israel. Fill your flask with anointing oil and get going. I’m sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I’ve spotted the very king I want among his sons.”
2-3 “I can’t do that,” said Samuel. “Saul will hear about it and kill me.”
God said, “Take a heifer with you and announce, ‘I’ve come to lead you in worship of God, with this heifer as a sacrifice.’ Make sure Jesse gets invited. I’ll let you know what to do next. I’ll point out the one you are to anoint.”
4 Samuel did what God told him. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the town fathers greeted him, but apprehensively. “Is there something wrong?”
5 “Nothing’s wrong. I’ve come to sacrifice this heifer and lead you in the worship of God. Prepare yourselves, be consecrated, and join me in worship.” He made sure Jesse and his sons were also consecrated and called to worship.
6 When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Here he is! God’s anointed!”
7 But God told Samuel, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.”
8 Jesse then called up Abinadab and presented him to Samuel. Samuel said, “This man isn’t God’s choice either.”
9 Next Jesse presented Shammah. Samuel said, “No, this man isn’t either.”
10 Jesse presented his seven sons to Samuel. Samuel was blunt with Jesse, “God hasn’t chosen any of these.”
11 Then he asked Jesse, “Is this it? Are there no more sons?”
“Well, yes, there’s the runt. But he’s out tending the sheep.”
Samuel ordered Jesse, “Go get him. We’re not moving from this spot until he’s here.”
12 Jesse sent for him. He was brought in, the very picture of health—bright-eyed, good-looking.
God said, “Up on your feet! Anoint him! This is the one.”
13 Samuel took his flask of oil and anointed him, with his brothers standing around watching. The Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life.
Samuel left and went home to Ramah.
(I Samuel 16:1-13 “The Message” C pyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
This is a drama fit for the stage. There’s action and emotion and lots of questions. Most of all, we see God actively involved in the narrative.
First, God tells Samuel to quit grieving over Saul, the first anointed king over Israel. Samuel had anointed him. But it was God who told him to do it. Sadly, Saul didn’t fare well. He failed to put his trust in God. His own agenda got in the way and eventually Samuel had to tell Saul that he’s lost Israel.
As harsh as Samuel was with Saul, he grieved mightily. After a period of time, God tells Samuel that it’s time to move on. That God is doing a new thing in Israel.
Then, God sends Samuel to Bethlehem to Jesse’s home. It’s a dangerous mission. If Saul gets word, he can have Samuel killed. God does an end run around this by telling Samuel to hold a worship service.
The strangest part of this, though, is how God chooses the next king. Samuel is certain that Eliab, Jesse’s eldest son is the one to anoint. He’s tall, like Saul, he’s handsome. He looks like a king!
But, no. Eliab isn’t the one. Nor is the second-born, the third-born, or the fourth-born. It’s getting tiresome. The action is beginning wane. We need someone to anoint. Did Samuel feel foolish? And how did these sons feel? One strapping young man rejected after another. Jesse parades each one before Samuel like a beauty contest or a horse show. Nope. These won’t do.
They won’t do, because God’s sight isn’t Samuel’s. God’s sight isn’t skin deep. God’s sight takes in all of the person: heart, mind, and soul. God sees all of it: our emotions, our ability to discern, our commitment, our intelligence, our wisdom and our character.
I could use a bit of that insight. And I trust you could, as well. We look at a black teenager wearing a hoodie. Whether we mean it or not, we wonder if he’s up to no good.
A dark-complexioned man is speaking English with a thick Hispanic accent. We assume he’s an undocumented immigrant.
A teenager with tattoos and all manner of piercings walks past you in the store. Is she on drugs?
We didn’t get up this morning planning to judge others in this harsh light. After all, we sit in church every Sunday morning vowing to love God and neighbor. The problem is, we watch the news. The news is troubling. We learn that we must be careful. Next thing we know, we’re afraid of anyone who doesn’t look and act like us.
Samuel’s eyesight isn’t any better. He’s stuck on looks and stature. He’s stuck in the past, looking for an improved version of Saul.
God’s vision is for something new. Someone new. Someone who’s heart is in the right place, who will trust in God and discern God’s vision.
The problem is, it’s son number eight. Often in scripture the number “seven” means completeness or perfection. For example, seven lamps in the tabernacle where God is worshiped; Joshua led a march around Jericho seven times; Jesus told his disciples to forgive not “seven” times but “seven times seventy.”
Jesse has a complete family with his seven sons. There’s a stray kid out in the pasture minding the sheep. He’s the youngest, probably unimpressive. Samuel calls a halt to the selection process and waits for this young boy to be brought in.
We wait with Samuel. We wait for our Messiah to return and make all things new. We wait for God to reject that which we would reject and bless that which we would bless.
Finally, he arrives. Unlikely as it is, God chooses him. Only after he’s anointed do we get to know his name. David.
How’s your eyesight? Are you, like Samuel, judging the outside appearance? Or are you trying to see others through the eyes of God?
Is it blurred by a tumultuous heart? What does God see in you? Is it good enough for God?
So what if you aren’t good enough? That’s not what’s important. What’s important is that God loves you. God loves you and sees everything: guilt, shame, prejudice, bias; joy, laughter, hope. God sees it all and loves us anyway.
Did your family tell you that you weren’t good enough? To God, you’re more than enough.
Are you working hard to keep God loving you? Stop and rest for a while. Let God be God; let God in.
Are you busy trying to prove yourself? Let it go. You have nothing to prove because God sees all and knows all and loves you anyway.
Theologian, Paul Tillich was fond of saying that “faith is the courage to accept acceptance.” (http://people.bu.edu/wwildman/tillich/resources/review_tillich-paul_couragetobe.htm)
“…the courage to accept acceptance.” How would that look in your life? To accept that God accepts you as you are? That you don’t earn God’s love? That you don’t work to be acceptable to God?
I read the 23rd Psalm through a different set of eyes this week. There is nothing in this Psalm for me to do but to rest, to be nourished and to know that I walk with God daily, even through the dark valley. And eventually my eyes see that light that Christ brought into the world.
It’s a drama fit for a, well for a king. It’s a drama with an important message for you and me. Let God be God. Let God’s voice overpower those internal voices that try to tell you you’re less than okay.
God is always doing a new thing. God needs you to accomplish it.
Take notice this week. How has God called you? Where has God called you?
Enter into this new week with eyes wide open.
Wide open with the lens of God to shape your faith.
All glory and honor be to God.